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Beloved Palestinian Poet Samih al-Qasim Dies at 75

Beloved Palestinian Poet Samih al-Qasim Dies at 75

20 August 2014 in 2014

I don’t like you, death
But I’m not afraid of you
And I know that my body is your bed
And my spirit is your bed cover
I know that your banks are narrow for me
I don’t love you, death
But I’m not afraid of you.
-One of Samih al-Qasim’s final poems
Beloved Palestinian poet Samih al-Qasim died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, following a worsening of his health this past week. He was 75.
Al-Qasim — whose stature in Palestine ranked alongside Mahmoud Darwish’s — will be widely mourned.
Al-Qasim was born in 1939 in the Jordanian city of az-Zarqa, where his father was working at the time. He hailed from a Druze family from the town of Rameh in the Upper Galilee, and attended school there and in Nazareth, as his family did not flee in 1948.
As Dr. Issa Boullata wrote over at World Literature Today:
Together with poets like Mahmoud Darwish, Tawfiq Zayyad, Rashed Hussein, and others in Israel, he expressed Palestinian opposition to Israel in the 1950s in recurrent oral poetic recitations at village gatherings—activities that were celebrated in the Arab world as “resistance poetry” and later published. Al-Qasim was eighteen when his first collection of poems was published, and he was to experience Israeli prisons several times because of his writings, face personal trouble in his livelihood, and publish censored poems.
He was one of the first Druze to refuse to serve in the Israeli army and is credited, along with Darwish, with founding Palestinian resistance literature. As his stature grew, he wrote poems that were recited and sung across the region, often set to music by Marcel Khalife.Ghassan Kanafani wrote of Al Qasim’s poem “Kafr Qasim” that it was “memorized throughout the entire Galilee.”
However, in a recent interview, al-Qasim told Liam Brown that he doesn’t care how he will be remembered:
“If the Palestinian people will be free, if the Arab world will be united, if social justice will be victorious in all the world, if there will be international peace. I don’t care who will remember me or my poems. I don’t care.”
Regardless, al-Qasim will be long remembered, for his poems, his journalism, and his activism.
Many other Palestinian poets penned tributes to al-Qasim on Tuesday, including Mourid Barghouti and Majeed al-Barghouthi:

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